Ice is flowing down Salmon River in the Salmon area. First ice of the season was last Wednesday, much later than usual. I usually regard ice-free river beyond the 10th of November as bonus time. I have seen ice by the 1st of November on occasion–though the early ice usually doesn’t last long. There are usually days scattered through the winter that are free of floating slush ice, allowing steelhead fishing during the winter, but the coming of ice certainly is the beginning of winter conditions. I hope to get on the river occasionally during the winter to fish myself, but scheduling customers isn’t practical until the end of winter.
The slow water in the eddies is freezing over, creating a shelf of smooth ice extending out from the bank to the edge of the faster current. The current line creates an abrupt edge to the shelf. Slush, slabs, and chunks of ice float down mid-stream, bumping into fishing lines when a steelhead fisherman is trying to get a drift from the bank, bumping into lines and the boat if fishermen try to fish plugs from a boat. Usual methods don’t work.
Local steelhead fishermen, though, have a method that I will not try. They rig a rod for bottom bouncing, walk out onto an ice shelf at the upstream end, drop the line, with bait and weight, down between chunks of floating ice. To avoid ice chunks bumping the line, the fisherman walks along the edge of the ice shelf at current speed, keeping the line between ice chunks, bumping the weight along the bottom of the river directly below their feet. At the lower end of the ice shelf, they reel up, walk up the ice to the upper end, and repeat. If the ice is not strong enough to support the weight of the fisherman, of course, there is a high-risk swim. I don’t need a steelhead that bad.